BY KATHY CLONINGER
Originally posted on FastCompany.com
Fri Oct 28, 2011
In 2011, only 20% of leaders in private companies worldwide are women. Meanwhile, heavily male-dominated industries like banking and utilities face the toughest challenges in a generation. The CEO of Girl Scouts USA on why troops of 9-year-old cookie pushers are America’s greatest hope for change.
We’re living in a time of enormous change. Were you as transfixed as I was, in the spring of 2011, by the images of grassroots democracy coming out of some of the Arab nations–countries that many of us thought were the most politically and socially unchanging on the globe? It was amazing and inspiring to see hundreds of thousands of ordinary people stand up and say, “Enough! Things have to change, and we don’t mean in 20 years; we mean now.”
How will those changes play out? Where will they take us? No one can be sure yet. But it’s not likely that things in those nations are just going to go back to the way they were.
I’m particularly struck by women’s actions in the uprisings in Cairo and Tunis and other cities caught up in this political and social whirlwind. At least for the moment, women are standing beside men in the public square, raising their voices against an oppressive past and for a better future. Imagine how transfixing it would be in the United States if women here spoke with equal vigor on behalf of girls. “It’s time! Things have to change, and we don’t mean by dribs and drabs over the next few decades. We mean now.”
Dribs and drabs aren’t working. As I write this, a brand-new report has just come out. In honor of International Women’s Day’s hundredth anniversary, consulting firm Grant Thornton International has published a study on the status of women in leadership at top private companies worldwide. The report tells us that in 2011, only 20 percent of leaders in private companies worldwide are women. That’s down from 24 percent in 2010. The largest economies–the G7 nations, including the United States–average 16 percent women leaders. Instead of seeing the current recession as an opportunity to reevaluate and refine operations, companies in these nations are reverting to a “play it safe” mentality instead.